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Pope Approved Secret Deal to Free Abducted Nun, Cardinal Says

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Pope Approved Secret Deal to Free Abducted Nun, Cardinal Says

A formerly top-ranking cardinal testified Thursday that the pope said he could spend up to one million euros to secure the release of a nun kidnapped by Islamic militants.

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis approved spending up to one million euros to free a Colombian nun kidnapped in Mali, a cardinal told a Vatican court on Thursday, revealing previously undisclosed negotiations to secure her release.

Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, formerly one of the Vatican’s highest-ranking prelates, said the pope had authorized his efforts, including payments to the militants linked to Al Qaeda who in 2017 had kidnapped Sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez Argoti in a village in Mali. She was released in 2021.

Cardinal Becciu, accused of embezzlement, abuse of office and witness tampering, is on trial with nine other defendants in a corruption trial that centers on a London real estate deal in which the Vatican lost millions, charges that the defendants deny.

Francis demanded the cardinal’s resignation as head of the department in charge of making saints in September 2020. Speaking of the moment that the pope had confronted him, Cardinal Becciu said Thursday: “For more than a year and a half I have been tormented by a question: Why were these false accusations reported to the Holy Father?”

The cardinal has testified previously in the trial, which began last July. But this was the first time that he publicly gave details about the case involving the kidnapped nun, which he said had been bound by both state and pontifical secret.

On Thursday he thanked the pope for “having dispensed me from the obligation of secrecy, thus allowing me to speak freely and defend myself with total transparency.”

There was no immediate Vatican response to the cardinal’s assertions.

 

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